Celebrating An Heirloom Thanksgiving

Photo: StarMama/Flickr

Airing this weekend and into next week on PBS is a Thanksgiving-themed documentary that will captivate viewers from all walks of life. All you need in order to appreciate the ‘stuff’ of Carole Murko’s Heirloom Meals’ Thanksgiving is the capacity to equate food with love and self-identity. Chances are, if you’re reading this blog already, you fit into that category.

Carole Murko is a food blogger and host of the weekly radio program Heirloom Meals, which broadcasts out of a teeny-tiny NPR affiliate in Sharon, CT, called RobinHood Radio. Contradicting its modest quarters, however, is the show’s underlying premise: food is ‘the great connector’ binding past to present, threading across and through diverse culinary traditions.

Murko conceived the Heirloom Meals’ Thanksgiving documentary with support from Gerry LaFlamme of Pete and Gerry’s Organics LLC , whose multi-generational family farm in New Hampshire produces organic eggs and coordinates a successful, growing network of similar-minded, family-owned farms. Murko and her small production crew turned around the project unbelievably fast, shooting the film in six days — quickly enough for PBS to pick it up in time for the holiday.

This is not a cooking show, mind you. It’s the chronicling and on-the-set demo of numerous Thanksgiving-Day recipes in the context of who originally made them, and why the handful of people Murko chose to interview — ordinary folks like us, not professional chefs — keep on making them each year at this time.

For starters, these dishes taste GOOD. They’re a storied family favorite (we all have these), the kind pulled out once a year, made with great care and eaten with much anticipation. These are the “I can’t wait for [BLANK]!!” recipes.

Second, the dishes Murko profiles were handed down. They’re the tangible, edible proof of someone’s desire to nourish. And love. Take, for example, Loring Barnes, a direct descendant of that grand-daddy of pilgrims, William Bradford, who talks with Murko about her aunt’s recipe for Acorn Squash Stuffed with Cranberries (amazing looking). Or, hear the recollections of Ellie Markovitch, a first-generation Brazilian immigrant, whose mom’s cheese bread (“Paeo de Queijo”) graces her own Thanksgiving table each year. Like her mother, Ellie records her best recipes in hand-written notebooks, themselves heirlooms in the making.

Murko walks us through the preparation of an entire, multi-course holiday meal, wine, fine china and desserts included, one personal story at a time. In each instance, recipe and familial memories blend. Tradition, self-identity, nostalgia and nourishment — each equally dear in this equation — form a family ‘heirloom’ brought out annually at Thanksgiving. Murko invites us into these personal stories as much as she asks, “Each one of us has an heirloom recipe: which is yours?”

For local airing times of Heirloom Meals’ Thanksgivingclick here.
For the recipes featured in Heirloom Meals’ Thanksgiving, click here.

I had the opportunity to watch the documentary earlier this week at a public pre-screening sponsored by the Harvard Food Law Society, where Murko was present and spoke.

6 thoughts on “Celebrating An Heirloom Thanksgiving

    1. Sue McCrory Post author

      The links provided here, in PRK’s post, are working. Try again! Both hyperlinks to the recipes featured in Heirloom Meals’ Thanksgiving will take you directly to the recipes (e.g., check the end of the post).

  1. Nan vance

    Loved the show! I would like to get a copy of the book featured on the show on the topic of the corn harvest and it’s connection to Thanksgiving.

    Can you help me? Again loved the show and hope there will be one for Christmas.

    Thank you

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